When Susie LeRoy was asked if she could be filmed at work, she had doubts and nearly canceled the plans.
But at 10 a.m. Friday, the physician assistant at Community Regional Medical Center learned this wasn’t just any job shadow. She turned a corner to find hundreds of people – mostly coworkers – lining a hallway, many holding signs that said “proud” and “Susie rocks.”
At the end of the hallway, there was an even bigger surprise for LeRoy, 35.
Earlier this year, LeRoy gave up one of her kidneys to a Kingsburg boy who has a rare disease and was having trouble finding a match. Friday, the family of 2-year-old Kaleb Perry was at the end of the hallway ready to thank LeRoy for her organ donation.
“Oh, my goodness,” LeRoy said as she reached to hug Kaleb’s mother, Mandy Perry, 30. “This is so crazy. They didn’t tell me any of this.”
Kaleb’s family calls LeRoy an angel who sacrificed so much so their boy could live. Kaleb was born with Prune Belly Syndrome, a rare condition that mostly develops in males and attacks abdominal muscles and causes severe kidney and lung problems. During pregnancy, the family was told that Kaleb may not make it. The doctors said he was at risk of suffocating at birth.
After his birth, he made frequent visits to Stanford children’s hospital for specialty care.
“He was slowly deteriorating,” his father Kevin Perry, 35, said.
LeRoy learned of Kaleb’s plight in a Facebook post. It said his parents were not exact blood type matches. Others had volunteered but weren’t matches, either. LeRoy, a mother of three, was moved and decided to put her fears aside and get tested. Through a multi-step process, it was confirmed that she was a match. The kidney transplant happened in May.
“It’s just amazing that someone would do that for us,” father Kevin Perry said of LeRoy. “How Christ laid down his life for us, we should do the same for our brothers and sisters, and that’s really what she’s done for our son.”
Kaleb, his mother and father say, is doing just fine now and is the happiest boy.
“He truly loves life, except when he can’t get his graham cracker back in his wrapper,” Mandy Perry said. “He loves life, he’s always smiling. His joy is so contagious. ... When the days feel hard, he really is a light in the hard (and) in the darkness.”
Community Regional helped set up Friday’s special honor walk and made it all a surprise for LeRoy. She received a medal from the Donor Network West, an organ donation center. DNW staff said Friday’s honor walk is the first they recall honoring a donor.
For LeRoy, the experience meant everything. She plans to keep in touch with the family.
“I was sobbing coming out, it was just so heartwarming,” LeRoy said.